This One Is For Dilla
When James Dewitt Yancey (J-Dilla) passed in 2006, his impact within the Hip Hop community quickly emerged - making him one of the most influential music producers we know today. The Detroit artist is legendary amongst musicians, artists, and fans from all over the world. Though he never stepped into the spotlight of mainstream success during his short life, his popularity has skyrocketed within the 11 years since he passed from a rare blood disease.
Like many others, it wasn’t until after his death that I began to discover the work of the late, great J-Dilla. After a couple of years of exploration, I completely understood why many referred to him as the greatest hip-hop producer to ever do it. And with no remorse, I agree with that statement 100%. His style of “boom-bap” is unworldly.
For those unaware of the phrase, boom-bap is a term used in Hip-Hop that refers to the classic drum pattern. The combination of a mid-tempo beat along with Dilla’s collection of various samples release a groove, which provides a melodic pleasure forcing your head to nod at a smooth and steady pace.
J-Dilla’s discography consists of many musicians ranging from underground to popular artists. I discovered songs I’ve never heard before, while also revisiting tracks I’ve heard time and time again - not realizing it was Dilla behind the board all along. These collaborations include: A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Erykah Badu, Common, Janet Jackson, and Tupac. The list goes on...
We now find ourselves in the month of February, where fans of J-Dilla refer to this time as “Dilla Month”. His birthday falling on February 7th, followed by the 10th, the day of his death. During this time, tributes to James Yancey flood social media and events are held in his honor. We also see pictures of fans broadcasting their donuts to represent him and his most famous instrumental album titled “Donuts”.
An event at the Mezzanine in San Francisco was held as an ode to the legendary producer for “Dilla Day”. Fans from all over the Bay Area made their way to the venue, looking forward to a night filled with like-minded souls and a Dilla-themed set list. As the room filled up, circles of people started to form across the floor, where people would take turns showing off their moves in the middle break-dancing and pop-locking. Dilla Day takes us back to the soul vibe. People of all ages, of different colors, and from different backgrounds got together to celebrate the life of James Yancey. It was a relief to see a mix of individuals interact and get down together, instead of the modern event where a crowd of people are cramped in the room focused on the DJ dropping banger after banger.
This night was much different than that. The soul in his music brought you back to the time when you heard that first Dilla track, reminding you of something, or someone from that same past. As the DJ continued to drop J-Dilla classics, strangers would look at each other mouthing the lyrics to the track as if it was a lost language.
We came to this venue as if James Yancey himself was performing here. Truth be told, he was. You could feel the energy in his music. Rest in Beats, Jay Dee. This one is for you.
- Brother Ray